7th Havana Biennial -  Home November 2000 - January 2001Home
Sheba Chhachhi - Statement
Written down by Pat Binder and Gerhard Haupt, based on an interview with the artist.
My piece is called "Neelkanth" which means 'blue throat.' It's one of the many names of the god Shiv. It's based on an old story. When the gods and the demons, driven by greed, decided to churn the cosmic ocean to try and extract from it the elixir of immortality. They wanted to be immortal. For me this has very much to do with modernization and technology and our desire to be immortal. In the grand dramatic process of churning, what they produced was poison. Shiv was aloof from this process, watching, and he realized as he saw the poisonous flames bursting from the ocean, he realized that this would destroy the entire univers. Moved by compassion and moved by the confessions of the gods that they were moved by greed, he opened his mouth and swallowed the poison. He contained it in his throat. The throat in ancient Indian thought is the center of purification and also from where speech and the word arises.

For me, today, the word itself has become poisoned. We are innundated with information. So you see in the work disembodied senses - the eyes, the nose, the mouth, the ears, the touch. Each of these senses is somewhere floating in a kind of cityscape, floating above the ground, alienated, flooded with too much information. So the question I want to raise is: can we, like in the story where Shiv contains the poison and allows nectar to emerge, can we transform this information into knowledge? Can we somewhere turn the city into a mandala? So the form of it is based on a mandala. It is not a mandala but it refers to that.

I think the work has different layers. And if you come in without any reference to the myth, you still have an experience. And you experience the fragmented senses, the idea of the city and the reorganization of it, etc. Its formal arrangement has its own powers. That speaks in a language that transcends the specifically cultural. But for me, it's very important to maintain specific cultural identity along with that, which is why I have told the story. I think in India, for example because of our colonial heritage, we know a lot of European stories. But perhaps there has not been enough the other way around, so I also want to tell the stories. And we begin to learn each other's codes and languages and signs.

© Interview, photos:
Gerhard Haupt & Pat Binder,
Universes in Universe
Sheba Chhachhi - Detail

Sheba Chhachhi - Detail
Chhachhi - 1 Tour

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